India's COVID-19 Death Rate Is a Mystery, Experts Say

Fewer than 1K out of 1.3B people have died
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 28, 2020 5:58 PM CDT

(Newser) – With its crowded cities and overburdened health care system, authorities feared the coronavirus pandemic would hit India like a sledgehammer. So far, that hasn't happened, but authorities aren't entirely sure why. With a population of 1.3 billion, the country has now recorded just over 29,000 COVID-19 cases and 934 deaths, far fewer than the US or many countries in Europe, reports Reuters. Authorities have credited the world's biggest lockdown with reducing the infection rate, while others have speculated that the virus strain circulating in India could be less virulent than others, that a tuberculosis vaccine provides some immunity, or that hot weather is reducing infections, the BBC reports. Experts, however, say the relatively low death rate is a mystery and more testing might provide the answer.

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Around 80% of Indians die at home, meaning that as in other countries, COVID-19 deaths may be severely under-reported, though doctors say there has not been a big surge in hospital deaths. Deaths from other causes, meanwhile, have gone down. "We typically get 20 bodies a day, but these days it's one or two, maximum," says Lakshmi Kumar, 46, proprietor of a private ambulance and funeral company in Bengaluru, tells NPR. "We still get the occasional heart attack victim, but otherwise it's quiet. There haven't been road accidents, because everyone is staying at home." India has been locked down for more than a month. Restrictions are due to be lifted May 3 but with around 1,500 new cases reported daily, authorities say the measures might have to be extended. (Read more India stories.)

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